This is the end

October 27

Trout Lake

I can’t call what happened last night actual sleeping. More like just getting through the night. Every time I started to drift off, I would jerk back awake to the cold. It was the longest night, but it did eventually end. And the sunshine wasn’t warm but it was a miracle. My fingers still went numb when I stuffed my tent in its bag. I was giddy with dreams of hot water and dry socks.

I stepped out onto the paved road on icy swollen feet. Walking was the only cure. I  saw a couple who had pulled over to admire the view of Mt. Adams. It was spectacular, coated with fresh fallen snow. My phone battery was dead, as well as all my back-up batteries. No pictures for me. The couple verified that I was on the road to Trout Lake, but they were headed in the other direction. I kept walking and in half an hour, the first truck headed my direction stopped. It was a couple from Salem and their dog. They’d driven over 100 miles to have breakfast in Trout Lake. They dropped me off at the grocery store.

Trout Lake Grocery Store rents out rooms to hikers. $25 for a warm bed and a shared bathroom. With a glorious bathtub. Downstairs, I petted Mikey the Big Cat and bought a huckleberry pie. “It’s snowing around Mt. Adams,” the owner Dora told me. “The snowline is down to 4000 feet. The last people to make it through said it was cold, deep snow and tough going. They were big guys with winter equipment.”

Just about every person in Trout Lake could have walked out of the pages of a novel about quirky big-hearted small town folk. From the old boys bellied up to the grocery counter to the shaggy cavers staying in the downstairs bedroom, everyone chimed in with kindly facts and concern. And stories. I heard about a female hiker who’d disappeared in the snow along the same section of trail. Her parents came to search along with rescuers from town. After two weeks, she reappeared at a trailhead after huddling in a snowbound tent with not enough food.

The idea of my parents looking for me in the snow while I’m trapped in my Big Agnes with no phone and a dwindling stash of bars is so terrible. And cold. Just the worst thing I could do to them. Not to mention all the rescue people, putting themselves at risk – absolutely I cannot be that person.

So I guess this is it for my PCT.

After the pie, I ate a lemon bar and a box of donuts. One last eating hurrah. A super generous trail angel named Gary gave me a ride all the way back to Vancouver. Which actually isn’t that far if you don’t have to walk the whole way.

26 thoughts on “This is the end

  1. Oh no! I will miss your daily blog. I love it. Maybe you could come down to the southern hemisphere and walk the Bibbulmun (1000km) or the Centennial Trail (6000km) and keep the blog going without deep snow, it’s summer here.


  2. Gretchen, I have been following you in my email browser just about every day. I have been amazed at your capacity to push through. I have wondered what drives you. So different to cycling, and so much closer to nature, I loved how you described her raw edge and your human intertwine. I wonder what will be your next calling. Sending love and gratitude for sharing with us your experiences of following your heart.


  3. Gretchen,
    Thank you for sharing your adventure. I have been following your trek since mid July and really enjoyed the memories it brought back for me of when I did the JMT close to 40 years ago. You are such an inspiration. Good luck in all your future adventures.


  4. You made a valiant attempt and went a very long way. You should be OK with that. Somehow I think you are. No body wants to worry about you, especially your family. Job well done. Loved the stories and pics. Especially the cats! On to the next adventure.


  5. A good decision I’m sure. Following your progress up the trail has been most excellent and inspiring. I have an insight into what it takes to get up each day with the willpower to get going. Looking forward to whatever comes next. Well done.


  6. You did great, Spinstera. I really enjoyed your blog, and now I don’t have a reason to refresh my browser as often. We (your readers) are so proud of you. You’ve inspired me.


  7. I feel so compelled to leave a message. I’ve been following PCT blogs now for three years (and I am writing a book about them), and none was quite so compelling. I loved your late start and your attitude towards those who questioned it. Everyone sees the world through their own eyes and not the eyes of others, and I feel like for just a moment I was able to get past myself and see a first person view of your struggle, your sense of humor, and your incredible success. Thanks so much!


  8. But what am I going to look forward to reading now? I will miss my daily dose of humour in adversity-it has been a real highlight to follow your epic. Well done and looking forward to the next one


  9. Gretchen, I loved reading your blog. I loved the newts and frogs of the Pacific Northwest, too. I think you did incredibly well on your PCT thru hike! Congratulations on the entire journey.


  10. Gretchen, Your ruminations on the trail filled a void in me left when I had to suspend my own PCT journey earlier this year. The daily immersion into your hiking world has been a balm to my lingering regret, and a joyful reminder of all the amazing experiences found in trail life. I give you all the props for hanging in there as long as you did, and thank you for the unique insights you’ve expressed here. Good luck and fortune to you in whatever comes next.


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